The `Quality’ Wars Heat Up…

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The sniping between the US and China over the various quality scandals plaguing Chinese exports is getting more intense—and in some cases, other-worldly. Li Changjiang, China’s quality czar (and what a job THAT must be these days…) fired back at the foreign press recently, saying it should be responsible and report the “truth” about China’s exports. The main target of his ire, apparently, was a WSJ piece a while back about a lawsuit in the US brought against an American firm that imported allegedly defective tires that supposedly led to an accident that killed two last August in Pennsylvania. Chang said that the Chinese tires in question, from Hangzhou-Zhongce Rubber Co Ltd, had in fact met US standards and were NOT responsible for the accident. Now comes this interview on Business Week’s web site, with the American head of the tire importer in question, who disputes that. The American importer, Foreign Tires Sales Inc. of Union, NJ, is suing the Hangzhou based tire producer.
The most astonishing statement to date in this saga, however, comes from a spokesman from Foreign Tire Sales, who told the WSJ the following:

“We have always stated that the tests for the tires exceeded the minimal standards,” Mr. Frank said. “But that doesn’t mean that the tires aren’t defective. There is a difference between quality and safety.”

There s a difference between quality and safety—in the TIRE business?? What in the world is this guy talking about? `Our tires are of the highest quality, they’re just not safe’?? Yikes.

Also, check out this interesting piece from the NY Sun, on the controversy over Chinese exports in the organic foods business.

To me the most interesting bit of this story—and for China, the most ominous—comes down in the last graf, when an organic food consumer in the United States, a woman named Stephanie Anagnosan says she has adopted a “China free diet because of the country’s labor and 
environmental practices.’’ This kind of sentiment—consumer boycotts, protests, etc—will only intensify as foreign scrutiny of China increases as the Olympics draw nearer. We’re one year away, and this was to be the year of China’s glory, its coming out party, adopting its true place in the constellation (as the sun around which all others orbit) etc etc. If this kind of coverage persists, and boycotts begin to have a real economic impact, the Chinese government will be absolutely furious. Their glorious Olympic year may turn out to be something very different.